Poetry and feminism go hand in hand, as illustrated by the feminist poet warriors of the past and present, including Adrienne Rich, Ann Sexton, Maya Angelou and Margaret Atwood to name a few. In her famous essay "Poetry is Not a Luxury," Audre Lorde expertly expresses the linkage of feminism and poetic verse:
"For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives."
In honor of the impact and importance of poetry in finding and expressing a feminist voice, I share with you three of my most favorite poems from three of my most favorite poets: Alice Walker, June Jordan, and of course, Audre Lorde.
Be Nobody's Darling by Alice Walker
"Be nobody's darling; Be an outcast. Take the contradictions Of your life And wrap around You like a shawl, To parry stones To keep you warm. Watch the people succumb To madness With ample cheer; Let them look askance at you And you askance reply. Be an outcast; Be pleased to walk alone (Uncool) Or line the crowded River beds With other impetuous Fools.
Make a merry gathering On the bank Where thousands perished For brave hurt words They said.
But be nobody's darling; Be an outcast. Qualified to live Among your dead."
Poem About My Rights written and performed by June Jordan
"For those of us who live at the shoreline standing upon the constant edges of decision crucial and alone for those of us who cannot indulge the passing dreams of choice who love in doorways coming and going in the hours between dawns looking inward and outward at once before and after seeking a now that can breed futures like bread in our children's mouths so their dreams will not reflect the death of ours:
For those of us who were imprinted with fear like a faint line in the center of our foreheads learning to be afraid with our mother's milk for by this weapon this illusion of some safety to be found the heavy-footed hoped to silence us For all of us this instant and this triumph We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid it might not remain when the sun sets we are afraid it might not rise in the morning when our stomachs are full we are afraid of indigestion when our stomachs are empty we are afraid we may never eat again when we are loved we are afraid love will vanish when we are alone we are afraid love will never return and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid
So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive"